I Know Nuts about What I am Reciting

Matthew has this little book on 唐诗 (poems from tha Tang dynasty) that PoPo has been reading to him since young. It has all along been “one of his books”. Recently, Matthew started asking us to read the poems to him at every opportunity. We did, just to get him off our backs from his incessant requests to “I wan (insert name) read, … please?”

We started rattling off the verses of 1 poem and Matthew would grow quiet for as long as we were reciting. Once we had finished, he would go “I wan (insert name) read again.” (and again and again). At first, we did not think much if he was listening or not; we were just relishing the momentary peace.

One day, Matthew started saying “I wan (insert name) read chuang qian ming yue guang” instead of just stopping at ‘read’. That’s when we realised he has quietly memorised the poem through our repetitive recitations. So we tested him by stopping after the first word in each verse; lo and behold, Matthew recited the rest of the verse on his own.

We started reciting more poems to him, always one at a time. Now he knows four of them, either reciting from start to end on his own, or finishing the verses we started. Though his pronounciation still sounds funny and comes with an accent, it is fun to hear him rattle on without an inkling what he is rattling about. He probably thinks they are just songs he has learnt.

His new ‘songs’ in ascending order of learning:

思 (李白)




登鹳雀楼 (王之涣)




 春  晓 (孟浩然)




悯农 (一) (李绅)

  锄禾日当午,  汗滴禾下土。

  谁知盘中餐, 粒粒皆辛苦。

In retrospect, my sister and I were made to memorise Tang poems by our father when we were young (much older than Matthew now), and we hated doing it so much we did not mention it in front of him for fear of him asking us to recite to him. We even conspired with our mother to hide the book, come up with excuses etc, just to get away from reciting.

Now, I sort of regret not having learnt more poems when I was young. My ‘library’ of poems comprises only the above four and a couple more, that’s all I have got.

Something I vividly remembered hating to do when I was young has become my latest interest. Because of Matthew, I am interested to learn more about such poems, their authors and the meaning behind them. Life is really strange…


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